IN THE EARLY 1960s, a Soviet astrophysicist, Nikolai Kardashev, was contemplating mysterious radio signals coming from a recently discovered quasar and theorized that they might be evidence of extraterrestrial beings. In 1964, Kardashev debuted a system for categorizing alien civilizations.
AFTER 50 YEARS of reading science fiction, I believe we need three primary technologies for interstellar flight: instant communication, protection against space-borne matter, and, of course, the faster-than-light drive itself [“Warp Factor,” April 2013].
IN THE JUNGLES of Belize last January, entomologist Alex Wild noticed something odd about the trap-jaw ants passing through his outdoor insect photography class: They all had shrunken heads and swollen abdomens. A day after making the observation, Wild and his students came upon an ant with a worm bursting out of Its side.
Engineers redesign the office chair for smartphone and tablet users
SUSAN E. MATTHEWS
THE WAY people work Is changing quickly. About two thirds of workers use at least two devices—tablets, smartphones, computers—every day. Trouble is, standard office chairs are built for people who sit in front of a monitor: back straight, elbows down, feet firmly on the floor.
The Ryobi Hybrid is the only yard tool that can run corded or cordless. The sevenpound string trimmer contains both AC and DC circuitry, so a user can switch power sources between an 18V lithium-ion battery and electricity from a socket. Ryobi Hybrid $119
Can the long-awaited E-Type successor live up to its lineage?
5/CUSTOM PERFORMANCE CONTROLS
Jaguar F-Type V8S
IN 1961, Jaguar debuted the E-Type, a road-ready two-seat version of the company’s champion racecars. It quickly became legend, praised by Enzo Ferrari as “the most beautiful car ever made.” But in 1974, Jaguar discontinued the E-Type and shifted its focus to genteel luxury coupes and sedans.
Half inch earphones that sound as good as over the ear cans
Sennheiser IE 800
For all their convenience, earphones have never matched the quality of over-the-ear headphones (a.k.a. cans). Their compact drivers can’t range from deep bass to high soprano. Companies have tried using multiple, differently tuned drivers, but that can degrade the signal.
How the world’s strongest material improves tennis swings
GRAPHENE, UP CLOSE
For years, racquet designers at HEAD struggled with the same problem: They couldn’t increase the power of their racquets without adding weight. The more weight a racquet has, the more momentum it generates during a swing and the more power it delivers to the ball.
Under Armour isn’t interested in graphene for its strength but for its conductivity. Engineers have experimented with prototype textiles overlaid with graphene circuits, which could be used to track biometric data, such as heart rate and temperature.
At launch, Project Shield will have one of the largest game libraries of any console. The device can connect to either the Google Play store, which has tens of thousands of titles, or STEAM, a PC-based service that can deliver more than 1,950 games from the cloud. The clamshell device has its own five-inch, 720p display, so gamers can play on the road. They can also connect to a TV over HDMI. Price not set (available summer)
The GameStick is the smallest complete console available— Android or otherwise. The system includes a two-inch HDMI dongle and a controller. Gamers download titles over Wi-Fi, and all the processing and rendering happens In the dongle, which has a 1.5GHz processor and one gig of RAM. The controller syncs with the dongle over Bluetooth. $79
Designers at OUYA encourage hackers to fiddle with their consoles. The box, which currently supports more than 100 games, also has a developer kit, so anyone can design programs to do things like run emulations of classic Nintendo games. Tinkerers can also crack open the shell with a screwdriver to upgrade the processor and memory to run more demanding titles. $99
Android might have started off as a smartphone operating system (OS), but in the five years since its launch, companies have adapted it to run everything from robots to TVs to home appliances. The latest version (4.2 or Jelly Bean) includes graphics upgrades that allow hardware manufacturers to build the first videogame consoles around the OS.
How toys are preparing kids for a future with robotic companions
FOR CHRISTMAS in 1993, my father gave me a My Magic Diary, a children’s version of Casio’s digital organizer. From that point on, I always had some iteration of that device—whether a PalmPilot or the iPhone 5 I carry today. Like most others my age, I was raised around mobile devices, so now as an adult, I’m generally unfazed by a new phone or tablet or piece of software.
Ancient ice suggests that scientists may be dangerously underestimating future sea levels
THE SKIES do strange things at the NEEM camp, a remote ice-drilling and research facility on the northern Greenland ice sheet. Midnight sunshine. Low clouds of sparkling ice crystals known as “diamond dust.” But when rain fell instead of snow last summer, complete with a rainbow arcing over the camp, the NEEM scientists couldn’t believe it.
A generator that harnesses energy from ocean currents
The magic of ocean currents is that they surround every continent on Earth and they run all day, every day. That’s what sets this energy source apart from wind, solar, tidal, or wave—all of which are cyclical, meaning that during certain periods they don’t produce power.
Each year, some 20 soldiers experience Afghanistan's 118°F heat for the first time not in the field but in a lab in Natick, Massachusetts. For six decades, the Doriot Climatic Chambers has created everything from deserts to blizzards to test equipment before real-world deploymentand it's the U.S's only military lab that uses human volunteers to do it.
Bricks are fairly easy to make, but in the developing world, traditional fired bricks are sometimes weak and crumble-prone, while cement ones are often unaffordable. The Vermeer BP714 is the first compressed-earth-block machine that makes strong air-dried bricks out of dirt.
When the Sellwood Bridge in Portland, Oregon, was built in 1925, it wasn’t designed to carry 30,000 vehicles a day. Or to hold back a slow landslide. But by the 1980s, cracks were forming In the bridge’s supports, leading Inspectors to rate the bridge a 2 on a 100-point federal safety scale and to eventually ban heavy trucks, buses, and fire engines.
Before people will understand science, scientists must understand people
IN 1954, a study published by Princeton and Dartmouth researchers asked their students to watch a recording of a football game between the two schools and count infractions. The Princeton students reported twice as many violations against Princeton as Dartmouth students did.
At long last, energy independence seems tantalizingly close. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects oil exports will surpass imports for the first time in 2014. The International Energy Agency forecasts the U.S. could become nearly self-sufficient by 2030—and Citigroup puts the milestone for North America at 2018.
THE WHY NOT? PLAN Drape the Planet with Solar Fabric
THE BACK-TO-NATURE SOLUTION Arrays That Mimic Plants
STORAGE BEYOND BATTERIES
The solar market has been on fire. In the U.S., it’s grown by 600 percent over the past five years, culminating in 3,313 installed megawatts in 2012. This past March, seven solar projects added the only new utility power of any kind to the U.S. grid.
THE RADIOACTIVE OPTION Next-Next-Gen Nuclear Power
THE SCAVENGER Heat to Electricity
The world throws away enormous amounts of energy each day. In the U.S. alone, waste streams could account for 100,000 megawatts of untapped electrical capacity. New technology could convert those overlooked sources into usable power.
WORLDWIDE RENEWABLE energy production reached 66.83 quadrillion BTUs in 2010. The countries in the Organisation for Economic Co operation and Development-which keeps detailed records for its 34 members [see map]-produced 16.50 quadrillion BTUs that year.
Water is 800 times denser than air, and building a generator able to withstand the tremendous force it generates has hampered the development of next-gen hydropower. If engineers can harness its energy, water holds great potential: about 1,420 terawatt-hours per year, or roughly a third of U.S. annual electricity usage.
In 2012, wind power added more new electricity production in the U.S. than any other single source. But even with 60 gigawatts powering 15 million homes, wind supplants just 1.8 percent of the nation’s carbon emissions. Tomorrow’s turbines will have to be more efficient, more affordable, and in more places.
Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have pened up huge reservoirs of oil and gas across the U.S. The Energy Information Administration predicts that production of shale gas in particular will continue to rise steeply, increasing 44 percent between 2011 and 2040.
WHAT GOVERNMENT FORECASTS SUGGEST ABOUT U.S. ENERGY INDEPENDENCE
SUSAN E. MATTHEWS
SINCE LONG BEFORE the rise In big data, the U.S. Energy Information Administration has tracked the country’s energy consumption and production [thick lines]. The size of the gap between the two reflects how close the country is to energy Independence.
WHY WOULD A PETRO-STATE ERECT A SOLAR-POWERED ECO-METROPOLIS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ARABIAN DESERT? TO CHANGE THE WORLD.
THE EXPERIMENT BEGINS
THE NEW ENERGY MODEL
INSIDE THE ENERGY LABS
THE IMPOSSIBLE CITY
At first glance, Masdar City appears a mirage. From a distance it looks like a single multicolored building, standing lonely on the horizon. Part of the illusion is due to the city’s strange setting: next to Abu Dhabi airport, just across the highway from the Arabian Gulf, in a deeply inhospitable stretch of desert.
The Beam Down Tower at Masdar is a step forward in concentrated solar power (CSP). Unlike other plants, the system reflects sunlight twice, once from the heliostats to the central tower and once from the tower down to a collection platform at the system’s base.
Dogs are the best bomb detectors we have. Can scientists do better?
It’s Christmas season at the Quintard Mall, in Oxford, Alabama, and were it not a weekday morning, the tiled halls would be thronged with shoppers, and I’d probably feel much weirder walking past Victoria’s Secret with TNT in my pants. The explosive is harmless in its current form—powdered and sealed inside a pair of fourounce nylon pouches tucked into the back pockets of my jeans—but it’s volatile enough to do its job, which is to attract the interest of a homeland defender in training by the name of Suge.
Last fall, David Atkinson and a team at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory announced that they had “sniffed” certain explosives in ambient air for the first time. Most common explosives— RDX, PETN, blasting gels—exist in very low ambient concentrations, often In the parts-per-quadrillion range.
FIND SCHOOLS OF FISH: The albatross can smell fish from the air. Researchers have found that an albatross will alter its course toward prey located well out of visual range. The birds can monitor a mlles-wide swath of ocean as they fly In a single direction.
An air-powered lever that launches people into the sky
Mechanical engineer Jason Bell has helped people throw themselves off the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, West Virginia, for more than a decade. About 400 BASE jumpers each year, in fact, leap from the 876-foot-high span before deploying their parachutes at Bridge Day, an annual extreme sports event Bell helps run.
An 11hp gas motor  turns a belt to drive an air compressor , which feeds a 120-gallon steel holding tank . When Bell turns a ball-valve handle, air pressurized to 130 psi rushes into a pneumatic cylinder  attached to the base of a forward-swinging arm.
Three games shrunk, digitized, and boozed up to a whole new level
MINI ARCADE MACHINE
TWEETING FOOSBALL TABLE
SUSAN E. MATTHEWS
In 2006, Mark Slevinsky fixed a Tron arcade game that a friend had left for trash. The work inspired similar gaming projects, ultimately leading him to a nerdy world record this year. While surfing the Web, Slevinksy saw printed-paper models of arcade machines, each about the size of a Game Boy.
Two DIY printers that would have impressed Gutenberg
NOW / DIY BIOPRINTER
If office printers can build images by spraying tiny blobs of ink onto paper, why couldn’t they also print in living cells? The question compelled Patrik D’haeseleer and a few collaborators at Biocurious, a biohackerspace in Sunnyvale, California, to build a machine that prints patterns of bacteria engineered to glow green.
Become the envy of fellow passengers on TV-free airplanes
On the streets of Manila, Flynn Jason Siy entertains himself with urban gymnastics. On airplanes, he avenges boredom with barf bags. During a budget flight to the resort island of Boracay-on a plane lacking TVs-Siy made a cradle for his smartphone from the metal closure tabs of several bags, allowing him to comfortably watch movies on the device.
Parasites of parasites—sometimes called hyperparasites—seem to be quite common. In fact, parasites of parasites are themselves prone to parasites, leading to what might appear to be an endless progression of interspecies abuse.
In August 1939, windmill technology was mostly reserved for small tasks like milling flour, charging radio batteries, and powering lights in rural homes. But POPULAR SCIENCE predicted that wind turbines could soon generate electricity on a much larger scale, thanks to two innovations that would “bring the old Dutch mill up to date.